“By working with a coach at Upwardly Global, she found that she could still work in the medical field”

Elena Nikolaev, M.D.

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 - By Upwardly Global

When Elena Nikolaev, a Russian dermatologist, arrived in the United States in March 2006 she brought with her eleven years of prior medical experience. In Russia, she had been at the top of her field, conducting marketing research for dermatological medications, training other specialists, and managing a team of nurses. On arrival in the U.S. she was determined to relicense as a physician.

Elena spent a year learning English, and did everything she could to expand her knowledge of the U.S. medical system, even taking classes on EKGs and medical billing. She began studying for the USMLE exams, the exams international medical students have to pass before they can apply for residency training and relicense. Acceptance into a residency training program is very competitive, and a miniscule number of international medical graduates are accepted. In September of 2010 she applied for a U.S. residency, but in March of 2011 she found out she did not secure one.

For the first time in her life, she was without direction and a sense of purpose. She had dedicated years to relicensing, and had now been out of work for 5 years. She had no idea what work she could do in the health care field without a license, and she was afraid she would be forced out of the medical profession. A few months later Elena met a geophysicist from Iran who told her about Upwardly Global and the training program that helps immigrant professionals get a job in their field. Elena enrolled in the program, and completed a two day intensive career workshop in San Jose.

The Upwardly Global program changed Elena’s life. At the workshop, she met 30 job seekers facing the exact same difficulties as she was and realized she was not as alone or isolated as she had thought. By working with a coach at Upwardly Global, she found that she could still work in the medical field, and learned about opportunities in the field of clinical research. UpGlo staff worked with her to help her understand which of her skills and experience would be valuable to clinical research. For the first time in months, she felt that there was hope of rebuilding a career in the U.S.

Elena received intensive support in identifying positions she could apply for, writing cover letters, and practicing interview questions. After the Career Workshop, she attended more than five events through Upwardly Global, including in-person practice interview sessions and health care webinars, all providing her with additional training and expanding her network.

Upwardly Global reconnected her with one of her workshop classmates, a physician from India. With UpGlo’s help, he had obtained a volunteer position at the Palo Alto Veteran’s Hospital, one of the best research centers in Northern California. He had just been offered a full-time position, and now he wanted to help Elena obtain the same volunteer position he had held, with hopes that she would be hired on as well. Elena accepted the volunteer position and began volunteering full-time. In July 2012, when it was announced that the department was opening up another full-time position, her classmate tells us there was never any doubt about who was going to be offered the position. Two months later, Elena accepted the position as Clinical Research Project Coordinator.

Elena recently called Upwardly Global to thank us and tell us about her excitement: they had installed a brass nameplate on the door of her office that reads, “Elena Nikolaev, MD.” A year ago she had never dreamed that she would see her name written that way ever again, having given up hope of associating her life in the US with the vibrant career she once had as a MD. Now the “MD” written on the nameplate represents the hope and recognition she thought she would never see again--at least, before she joined Upwardly Global.

From Upwardly Global (www.upwardlyglobal.org). Upwardly Global creates employer partnerships that benefit from access to the highly skilled immigrant talent pool. Upwardly Global provides customized training and support for these new Americans to give them an equal opportunity to find and secure skill appropriate opportunities and achieve their full economic potential in the U.S. The outcome is global talent for employers, culturally competent service providers for diverse communities, and family sustaining incomes for those who were previously unemployed or underemployed.